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What Target Canada's failure can teach CEOs about business growth strategy

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Know your market, protect and leverage your brand.

Entering a new, foreign market can be a challenge for any business. Regardless, it is still an important step for any company looking to grow internationally in the era of globalization.

However, a lack of planning, research, and proper preparation can cause any great aspirations for growth to go downhill quite quickly. The successful execution of your growth strategy and delivery of your brand promise can make or break the success of your business not just overseas, but in any new market. 

Don't assume brand loyalty will carry across borders.

Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, learned this after failing to successfully expand the retail empire to Canada. Here are seven lessons on business growth strategy that CEOs can learn from the failure of Target Canada:

1.  Get to know the new market well. Really well. 

Don’t skimp on the research, nor make assumptions about your new, potential buyers and the market you plan to enter. Target rushed into Canada so fast it couldn’t keep up with itself. However, a lack of research or desire to truly understand the Canadian retail market was probably even more to blame. Canada is an incredibly diverse nation, both geographically and culturally. Not only is it the second largest country in the world by land area, but every region in the country also has its own unique consumer culture. 

Despite this, Target put no province-by-province or regional growth plan in place, and showed little interest in tailoring its offerings and products to fit the needs of its Canadian customers. When positioning your company in a new market, you need to think of it as just that – a new, unexplored market. 

When preparing your growth plan, take the time to not only research your new market, but also try to understand your prospects and how to differentiate your company and your services to fit their needs. After your growth plan is successfully executed (don’t rush it!), your new buyers will take note of your interest in meeting their demands, and return the favor by actually doing business with you.

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Doug Wendt
Doug Wendt
Doug is the President & CEO of Wendt Partners, a business-to-business growth strategy consulting firm serving the CEOs of growth-stage and middle-market companies. The firm, with offices in New York, NY and Washington, DC, focuses on driving results in sales, marketing, strategy and leadership. Doug is an avid writer and blogger, and is the author of Brand-Driven Leadership: Ten Essential Strategies for Business Growth.

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